History was made on Monday, February 21, 2022, as the American University of Nigeria (AUN) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a new agricultural innovation hub in Adamawa state to serve the Northeast region.
The MoU establishes a partnership between the two institutions for research opportunities and for donor-funded projects on nutrition, training for farmers, and education for vulnerable women and children.
The President of the American University of Nigeria, Dr. Margee Ensign, and the Deputy Director-General, Partnerships for Delivery of IITA, Dr. Kenton Dashiell, signed for the two organizations. The signing ceremony held in the 24-hour Room of AUN’s Robert Pastor Library and E-Resource Center, was attended by the Adamawa State Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon Umar Iya Daware, a representative of the Vice-Chancellor of the Modibbo Adama University, Yola, Dr. Abdullahi Tukur, members of the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), and the AUN Community.
President Ensign described the AUN-IITA partnership as a life-changing opportunity not only for both institutions but--far more importantly--for the people, farmers, women, youth, and children in the Northeast, and all of Nigeria.
"In America, we call this a marriage made in heaven," the President said.
Further explaining the importance of the new partnership, President Ensign described food security and education as the foundations of society.
"Without enough to eat, and the ability for individuals to learn, a society cannot advance," she said. "The American University of Nigeria's mission as a Development University is to train bold leaders to solve societal problems and to improve education—in all its different forms—especially in Northeast Nigeria.
"The International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is an award-winning, research-for-development (R4D) organization whose goals are to reduce poverty and increase sustainable agricultural production--to improve the lives of farmers and reduce poverty. We have come together to partner to work on these two fundamental challenges: food insecurity and poor education."
President Ensign bemoaned the grim statistics about education and nutrition in the Northeast region. UNICEF, she pointed out, concluded that Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 percent of children under five.
"Every year in Nigeria, malnutrition contributes to more than 33% of the deaths of children below 5 years, and these deaths mostly occur in the northern geopolitical zones where nearly 50% of all children below 5 years are stunted".
President Ensign said numerous projects are being considered under the new partnership.
" The IITA motto is zero hunger. Ours at AUN is Education for all. The projects will give IITA the opportunity to have a research station in Northeast Nigeria. Crop testing and performance variation under different ecological conditions on land inside the campus of AUN in Yola will enable IITA to complete its ecological coverage of Nigeria. AUN has contributed 100 hectares of our land for this effort, and an office for IITA. We can together develop radio and mobile programs to educate women on nutrition and health, and farmers to increase agricultural productivity", the President said.
On other benefits, President Ensign said AUN would work with its peace network, the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), to introduce these agricultural practices in conflict-prone areas.
"We will bring Christian and Muslim groups together, people whose conflicts are often related to land use. There are tremendous opportunities for AUN faculty and students for development research. I am confident that this partnership will be life changing--and life saving--for many in this region".
IITA's Dr. Dashiell also listed the many benefits of the partnership.
"We have some commonalities with AUN, but we also have some distinct areas that would be highly complementary. We work on the business incubation platform, youth, agro-business, development and delivery, mechanization, communication, and capacity development. The IITA is one of the world's leading research partners in finding solutions for hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
“The IITA works with international and national partners to improve livelihoods. On the other hand, AUN nurtures and gives knowledge, skills, and practice of civic values and has a reputation for offering assistance to its community and in blending community development with academic research. Their mission is to enhance the food security, income, and well-being of resource-poor people in the Northeast and sub-Saharan Africa by related activities to increase agricultural production, improve food systems and sustainably manage natural resources".